Since the very first Big Smoke was staged in New York City in 1993, the event has branched out to locations all around the country. The Las Vegas venue, however, is the premier location and holds the title as the biggest cigar celebration in the world.
Walking from the casino floor at the Paris along the meandering streets of the faux Parisian village storefronts on Friday or Saturday night, you could already catch the scent of cigars in the air. All roads led to the 85,000 square-foot ballroom where the stage was set for the throngs of thousands. Rounding the corner, the chatter of anticipation mixed with the clicking of lighters, hanging plumes of smoke, and smiles of attendees waiting for the doors to part.
|Attendees light up smokes at the C.A.O. station.|
From military personnel to businessmen to guys dressed in cow costumes and smoking jackets, people from all ages and walks of life stood shoulder to shoulder.
|Heather Philips and Angela Loruss of Florida.|
A crowd of eight old friends traveling from San Diego, Houston and even overseas, met in Vegas for their fist ever Big Smoke. "We've already decided to make this an annual event," said one of the buddy group. "I flew over from London for the event," said another. "That's just how much of an event this is for us."
A mother and son also met up in the Paris for their first Big Smoke coming together from Iceland and Russia where they each make their respective home. "We are here to pick up cigars and meet people," they said. "This is great!"
|Jim Sons displays some cigars from his tote bag.|
Midway through the evening, tote bags brimmed with handmade cigars from around the world, many of them handed out by the owners of the companies making the cigars. The brands included Arturo Fuente, Ashton, Bolivar, Brazil Cigars & Tobacco, C.A.O., Flavours by C.A.O., Carlos Toraño, Cuesta-Rey, Cusano, Don Tomás, Felipe Gregorio, Helix, H. Upmann, Kahlúa, La Aroma de Cuba, La Aurora, La Carolina, La Flor Dominicana, La Gloria Cubana, Maria Guerrero, Montecristo, Oliva, Padrón, Puros Indios, Romeo y Julieta, Rocky Patel Premium, Saint Luis Rey, The Griffin's and Zino Platinum. (The Miami companies who distribute Camacho and Padilla cigars could not make the event from Miami due to problems arising from Hurricane Wilma.)
|Carlos Fuente Jr. shakes hands at his booth with Richard Vukovics.|
To cleanse the palate in between puffs, copious amounts of booze were poured. Cigars were paired with an array of high-end spirits on or off the rocks, from single-malt Scotches such as Laphroaig, The Glenlivet, The Glenrothes and Talisker; whiskeys such as Tullamore Dew, Jack Daniel's and Woodford Reserve Bourbon; Absolute Apeach and Level vodkas; Plymouth gin, Patrón Tequila, fine wines from Pine Ridge and Archery Summit and frosty brews courtesy of Michelob Amber Bock.
|Al Carpenter of Canada takes a test drive in a convertible Chrysler Crossfire.|
|John Long, Stephen Adams, David Robinson, Marcus Brent, Wayne Parmeter, Anthony Goins at the front stage.|
What would the good life be without fashion accessories, travel and adventure? Tommy Bahama modeled the finest in island-inspired apparel; Colibri and Diamond Crown displayed the latest gadgetry in lighters and humidors; Golf Mesquite resort and Windstar cruises showed attendees how and where to spend quality leisure time; and Maurice Lacroix laid out the finest craftsmanship in time pieces.
|Dan and Jane Barizanti enjoy a cigar together.|
At 9:30 each evening, the lights began to fade and guests puffed merrily out the door on to the Vegas Strip. Most would no doubt continue into the night. The Big Smoke was just beginning as well, with much more to come.
Photos by Camilla Sjodin Hadowanetz
CLICK HERE TO READ PART ONE
CLICK HERE TO READ THE SATURDAY SEMINARS
CLICK HERE TO READ THE SUNDAY SEMINARS
CLICK HERE TO SEE THE PHOTO GALLERY
Log in if you're already registered.
Search our database of more than 17,000 cigar tasting notes by score, brand, country, size, price range, year, wrapper and more, plus add your favorites to your Personal Humidor.